Canadian winters are tough on cars – brutally so, in some cases – and while many Canadians have no doubt experienced the toll our cold climes can take on their cars during the frigid winter months, it’s often after all the sludge and grime gets cleared from our sidewalks, our roads and indeed, our cars, that we see the true effect of those frosty stretches have had on our transport.
That’s why while winter prep is important, we must never forget to take a long, hard look at out cars once spring has sprung to see just what needs to be done.
Start at the bottom and work your way up
It starts – and this should come as little surprise – at the bottom. As our cars make their way through the slop winter sends our way, the underside the car takes a beating. While obvious stuff like stuck-on ice and slush should regularly be cleaned off during winter, that’s not to say doing so takes care of everything. The salt used on many roads during winter can cling to a chassis like a barnacle to a ship’s hull. You’ll want to either take a hose with a nozzle set to the water equivalent of “stun” – or preferably, a pressure washer – to the underside to blast all that stubborn salt out from under there. Professional detailers also offer this service and many automated car washes have an underbody spray option.
Moving up from the underbody we now come to the tires, wheels and, crucially, the brakes. The first two can be cleaned, but that’s mainly a ‘looks’ thing and since so many Canadians are running winter tires anyway, cleaning them isn’t that high on the list as they’ll inevitably be switched for summer rubber, unspoiled by months of sludging.
The brakes are a different story, however, especially if you’re in a province or area that uses gravel as ice melt. You want to make sure that none of that gravel has hitched a ride on some stubborn ice and managed to embed itself in your brake pads. As far as the wheels themselves go, professional detailer Edward Marchese says that you should consider a good tire and rim cleaner (he recommends Meguiar’s or Sonax products) plus spray to knock off unsightly brake dust.
NOTE: be sure to switch out your winter tires. Using them on dry, warm roads will cost you at the pump as they have higher rolling resistance and cause the tires themselves to wear prematurely.
In fact, Marchese says that doing your tires is the perfect opportunity to do the rest. “I would plan out when swapping over the winter tires to do the spring detailing,” he says. “And then (we can do a) winter detail prep when we swap back in October/November.” He says it’s also a good time to check for various nails and screws that may have not been picked up before; snow tires have deep treads, and smaller items can get trapped there.
Checking those hidden nooks and crannies
Moving on up, we come to the vehicle’s body. To start, Marchese recommends that you search through your vehicle’s various nooks and crannies – around the wiper hinges, in the door jams, the trunk jams and underhood gutters – as debris will collect there. If left, Marchese says it can damage paint over time.
As far as actual cleaning goes, while Marchese will use various industrial-level tools for his work, he recommends the tried, tested and true “two bucket” method (one bucket for warm rinse water, one for your cleaning agent) with a simple wash mitt.
Marchese says that one should by all means consider waxing their vehicle after all that salt residue and so on has been thoroughly removed – but only after it’s been thoroughly removed. To do so, he recommends using a fallout cleaner to remove the stubborn corrosive iron particles. After that, it’s time for some handwashing and if the exterior still feels rough, a claybar.
Tackling the vehicle’s interior
From the outside, we move to the typically less gritty but more nitty-gritty frontier: your car’s interior. Months of tromping trough snow in heavy boots has left salt stains on your carpets should you not have rubberized mats in there. Marchese recommends a carpet shampoo and if it’s really caked on there, a carpet steamer. Also, take a long, hard look at the trunk and spare tire areas as oftentimes, leaks can spring up there without us realizing it.
You’ll also want to give the interior componentry a once-over as salt-stained gloves can have an effect there, too. Marchese recommends a very lightly damp microfiber cloth, but also an interior cleaner from a brand such as Pearl Nano that Marchese says is formulated to clean and not damage the interior.
Of course, all that’s well and good but there is an argument for doing your best to perform minor cleaning tasks throughout the year, but letting a professional give it a solid once-over once or twice a year.
“Our vehicles are probably the second biggest investment beside a home,” says Marchese, who deals only with private contracts and is not open to the public. “Why wouldn’t we spend a couple of bucks twice a year with a professional to maintain our investment?”